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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Bill Dixon

Imagine Verizon holding a convention and having Alexander Graham Bell show up as the guest of honor, or General Electric throwing a big bash for Thomas Alva Edison. That’s precisely what happened when a gaggle of guitarists from the rock, blues and jazz worlds — all bearing the name Les Paul on the headstock of their instruments — gathered to pay a fitting tribute to the father of the electric guitar on Father’s Day at a Carnegie Hall gala as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. The occasion was a 90th birthday celebration for Les Paul, who, incredibly, is still playing with youthful verve every Monday night at New York’s Iridium nightclub.

Indeed, “The Wizard of Waukesha” was no idle honoree in the Carnegie festivities. Paul’s facile playing and good-humored repartee with his crew of regulars (rhythm guitarist Lou Pollo, bassist Nicki Parrott and pianist John Colianni) provided some of the highlights in this star-studded show, which included the likes of rockers Joe Satriani, Steve Miller, Toto’s Steve Lukather and Journey’s Neal Schon, jazzers Pat Martino, Bucky Pizzarelli and Stanley Jordan, and blues-rockers Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Derek Trucks and Jon Paris. In addition, filmed salutes came in from six-stringers Ace Freeley of Kiss, Lenny Kravitz, Zakk Wylde and Carlos Santana, who likened Paul’s contributions to that of Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein. “There wouldn’t be a Jimmy Page or Santana without him,” he said. “Les created an instrument that allowed us to articulate our vision.”

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